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Utah Anti-SLAPP Acts & Laws
Last updated 2023.04.05
UTAH UNIFORM PUBLIC EXPRESSION PROTECTION ACT
Effective May 3, 2023, see UT ST § 78B–25–114, below.
UT ST § 78B–25–101. Title
This chapter may be cited as the "Uniform Public Expression Protection Act."
UT ST § 78B–25–102. Scope
(1) As used in this section:
(a) "Goods or services" does not include the creation, dissemination, exhibition, or advertisement or similar promotion of a dramatic, literary, musical, political, journalistic, or artistic work.
(b) "Governmental unit" means a public corporation or government or governmental subdivision, agency, or instrumentality.
(c) "Person" means an individual, estate, trust, partnership, business or nonprofit entity, governmental unit, or other legal entity.
(2) Except as provided in Subsection (3), this chapter applies to a cause of action asserted in a civil action against a person based on the person's:
(a) communication in a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceeding;
(b) communication on an issue under consideration or review in a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceeding; or
(c) exercise of the right of freedom of speech or of the press, the right to assemble or petition, or the right of association, guaranteed by the United States Constitution or Utah Constitution, on a matter of public concern.
(3) This chapter does not apply to a cause of action asserted:
(a) against a governmental unit or an employee or agent of a governmental unit acting or purporting to act in an official capacity;
(b) by a governmental unit or an employee or agent of a governmental unit acting in an official capacity to enforce a law to protect against an imminent threat to public health or safety; or
(c) against a person primarily engaged in the business of selling or leasing goods or services if the cause of action arises out of a communication related to the person's sale or lease of the goods or services.
UT ST § 78B–25–103. Special motion for expedited relief
Not later than 60 days after the day on which a party is served with a complaint, crossclaim, counterclaim, third-party claim, or other pleading that asserts a cause of action to which this chapter applies, or at a later time on a showing of good cause, the party may file a special motion for expedited relief to dismiss the cause of action or part of the cause of action.
UT ST § 78B–25–104. Stay
(1) Except as provided in Subsections (4) through (7), on the filing of a motion under Section 78B–25–103:
(a) all other proceedings between the moving party and responding party, including discovery and a pending hearing or motion, are stayed; and
(b) on motion by the moving party, the court may stay a hearing or motion involving another party, or discovery by another party, if the hearing or ruling on the motion would adjudicate, or the discovery would relate to, an issue material to the motion under Section 78B–25–103.
(2) A stay under Subsection (1) remains in effect until the day on which an order ruling on the motion under Section 78B–25–103 is entered and expiration of the time under Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 4, for the moving party to appeal the order.
(a) Except as provided in Subsections (5) through (7), if a party appeals from an order ruling on a motion under Section 78B–25–103, all proceedings between all parties in the action are stayed.
(b) A stay under Subsection (3)(a) remains in effect until the day on which the appeal concludes.
(4) During a stay under Subsection (1), the court may allow limited discovery if a party shows that specific information is necessary to establish whether a party has satisfied or failed to satisfy a burden under Subsection 78B–25–107(1) and the information is not reasonably available unless discovery is allowed.
(5) A motion under Section 78B–25–110 for costs, attorney fees, and expenses is not subject to a stay under this section.
(6) A stay under this section does not affect a party's ability to voluntarily dismiss a cause of action or part of a cause of action or move to sever a cause of action.
(7) During a stay under this section, the court for good cause may hear and rule on:
(a) a motion unrelated to the motion under Section 78B–25–103; and
(b) a motion seeking a special or preliminary injunction to protect against an imminent threat to public health or safety.
UT ST § 78B–25–105. Hearing
(1) The court shall hear a motion under Section 78B–25–103 not later than 60 days after the day on which the motion is filed, unless the court orders a later hearing:
(a) to allow discovery under Subsection 78B–25–104(4); or
(b) for other good cause.
(2) If the court orders a later hearing under Subsection (1)(a), the court shall hear the motion under Section 78B–25–103 not later than 60 days after the day on which the court issues an order allowing the discovery, unless the court orders a later hearing under Subsection (1)(b).
UT ST § 78B–25–106. Proof
In ruling on a motion under Section 78B–25–103, the court shall consider the pleadings, the motion, any reply or response to the motion, and any evidence that could be considered in ruling on a motion for summary judgment under Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 56.
UT ST § 78B–25–107. Dismissal of cause of action in whole or part
(1) In ruling on a motion under Section 78B–25–103, the court shall dismiss with prejudice a cause of action, or part of a cause of action, if:
(a) the moving party establishes under Subsection 78B–25–102(2) that this chapter applies;
(b) the responding party fails to establish under Subsection 78B–25–102(3) that this chapter does not apply; and
(i) the responding party fails to establish a prima facie case as to each essential element of the cause of action; or
(ii) the moving party establishes that:
(A) the responding party failed to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted; or
(B) there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the cause of action or part of the cause of action.
(2) A voluntary dismissal without prejudice of a responding party's cause of action, or part of a cause of action, that is the subject of a motion under Section 78B–25–103 does not affect a moving party's right to obtain a ruling on the motion and seek costs, attorney fees, and expenses under Section 78B–25–110.
(3) A voluntary dismissal with prejudice of a responding party's cause of action, or part of a cause of action, that is the subject of a motion under Section 78B–25–103 establishes for the purpose of Section 78B–25–110 that the moving party prevailed on the motion.
UT ST § 78B–25–108. Ruling
The court shall rule on a motion under Section 78B–25–103 not later than 60 days after the day on which a hearing is held under Section 78B–25–105.
UT ST § 78B–25–109. Appeal
(1) A moving party may appeal as a matter of right from an order denying, in whole or in part, a motion under Section 78B–25–103.
(2) The appeal shall be filed in accordance with Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 4.
UT ST § 78B–25–110. Costs, attorney fees, and expenses
On a motion under Section 78B–25–103, the court shall award court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and reasonable litigation expenses related to the motion:
(1) to the moving party if the moving party prevails on the motion; or
(2) to the responding party if the responding party prevails on the motion and the court finds that the motion was frivolous or filed solely with intent to delay the proceeding.
UT ST § 78B–25–111. Construction
This chapter shall be broadly construed and applied to protect the exercise of the right of freedom of speech and of the press, the right to assemble and petition, and the right of association, guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the Utah Constitution.
UT ST § 78B–25–112. Uniformity of application and construction
In applying and construing this uniform act, consideration shall be given to the need to promote uniformity of the law with respect to the uniform law's subject matter among states that enact the uniform law.
UT ST § 78B–25–113. Transitional provision
>This chapter applies to a civil action filed or cause of action asserted in a civil action on or after May 3, 2023.
UT ST § 78B–25–114. Savings clause
This chapter does not affect a cause of action asserted before May 3, 2023, in a civil action or a motion under Chapter 6, Part 14, Citizen Participation in Government Act, regarding the cause of action.
UT ST § 78B–25–115. Severability
If any provision of this chapter or the chapter's application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this chapter which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this chapter are severable.
PRIOR STATUTE EFFECTIVE BEFORE MAY 3, 2023
Utah Code § 78B-6-1401. Title
This part is known as the "Citizen Participation in Government Act."
Utah Code § 78B-6-1402. Definitions
As used in this part:
(1) "Action involving public participation in the process of government" means any lawsuit, cause of action, claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or other judicial pleading or filing requesting relief to which this act applies.
(2) "Government" includes a branch, department, agency, instrumentality, official, employee, agent, or other person acting under color of law of the United States, a state, or subdivision of a state or other public authority.
(3) "Moving party" means any person on whose behalf the motion is filed.
(4) "Process of government" means the mechanisms and procedures by which the legislative and executive branches of government make decisions, and the activities leading up to the decisions, including the exercise by a citizen of the right to influence those decisions under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
(5) "Responding party" means any person against whom the motion described in Section 78B-6-1403 is filed.
Utah Code § 78B-6-1403. Applicability
(1) A defendant in an action who believes that the action is primarily based on, relates to, or is in response to an act of the defendant while participating in the process of government and is done primarily to harass the defendant, may file:
(a) an answer supported by an affidavit of the defendant detailing his belief that the action is designed to prevent, interfere with, or chill public participation in the process of government, and specifying in detail the conduct asserted to be the participation in the process of government believed to give rise to the complaint; and
(b) a motion for judgment on the pleadings in accordance with the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(c).
(2) Affidavits detailing activity not adequately detailed in the answer may be filed with the motion.
Utah Code § 78B-6-1404. Procedures
(1) On the filing of a motion for judgment on the pleadings:
(a) all discovery shall be stayed pending resolution of the motion unless the court orders otherwise;
(b) the trial court shall hear and determine the motion as expeditiously as possible with the moving party providing by clear and convincing evidence that the primary reason for the filing of the complaint was to interfere with the first amendment right of the defendant; and
(c) the moving party shall have a right to seek interlocutory appeal from a trial court order denying the motion or from a trial court failure to rule on the motion in expedited fashion.
(2) The court shall grant the motion and dismiss the action upon a finding that the primary purpose of the action is to prevent, interfere with, or chill the moving party's proper participation in the process of government.
(3) Any government body to which the moving party's acts were directed or the attorney general may intervene to defend or otherwise support the moving party.
Utah Code § 78B-6-1405. Counter actions--Attorney fees--Damages
(1) A defendant in an action involving public participation in the process of government may maintain an action, claim, cross-claim, or counterclaim to recover:
(a) costs and reasonable attorney fees, upon a demonstration that the action involving public participation in the process of government was commenced or continued without a substantial basis in fact and law and could not be supported by a substantial argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law; and
(b) other compensatory damages upon an additional demonstration that the action involving public participation in the process of government was commenced or continued for the purpose of harassing, intimidating, punishing, or otherwise maliciously inhibiting the free exercise of rights granted under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
(2) Nothing in this section shall affect or preclude the right of any party to any recovery otherwise authorized by law.